After vowing to block the tunnel, McGinn flipped last week following the City Council’s unanimous vote in favor of it, and said, “OK, I still dislike the tunnel but I won’t block it.” Or words to that effect.
“Or words to that effect”…? Really?
Now, what is it they call that pair of double squiggly things? Quotation marks, right? And forgive my lack of a J-school education, but in a newspaper, aren’t the words between them generally understood to represent an actual quote? You know, like words the subject, um, said… not kinda-sorta said, or almost said, or gee, wouldn’t it be funny if they said it like that?
Well, according to our state’s paper of record, apparently not. Apparently, and I guess I must’ve missed this section of the AP Style Guide, it is totally journalistically kosher to attribute whatever you want to a subject — even to put those definitive quotation marks around the words and everything — as long as you follow the fabricated quote with the caveat: “Or words to that effect.”
You know, like…
When asked how his ill advised foray into the Maine newspaper market contributed to the Seattle Times’ own financial woes, publisher Frank Blethen philosophically offered, “I eat poo.” Or words to that effect.
In a rare moment of candor, King County executive candidate Susan Hutchison surprised the audience by admitting that her transportation priorities would include “killing light rail, building more roads, and judiciously licking Kemper Freeman’s anus.” Or words to that effect.
Or maybe even this…
Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen defended his qualifications for the post, attributing his meteoric rise to “that extra chromosome I inherited from my father.” Or words to that effect.
I mean, it’s not like Mike McGinn didn’t speak at length about his very pragmatic decision not to unilaterally block a 9-0 vote of the City Council, so the Times had every opportunity to relate his words exactly. But they didn’t. McGinn’s thoughtful explanation didn’t quite fit the Times’ chosen meme of him as an unprincipled flip-flopper. So instead, they just made stuff up.
See how easy it is? Professional journalists and lowly bloggers alike can now simply put words into other people’s mouths, however defamatory, quotation marks and all, and at no risk of giving up a costly libel award, all thanks to the Seattle Times’ clever new Or Words To That Effect defense… a journalistic ethos reflected in the paper’s new motto: “Making shit up since 1896.”
Or words to that effect.